When I made the decision to stop drinking I didn’t know how long it was going to be for. I still don’t. ‘Forever’ is a big, scary word. I didn’t know if I was going to succeed this time, or if I’d only make it a few weeks like my two failed attempts years prior. But I also didn’t want to keep making empty promises to myself and being disappointed in the one person I’m stuck with no matter what. I wanted to take sobriety seriously this time.
Could I make it 30 days? The longest I’d ever been sober was three weeks. Surely I could do four.
Could I make it 100 days? Two of the books I’d read recently referenced the 100 day mark and how the benefits of living sober really kick in. It sounded glorious, but was it attainable?
I tried to imagine my life without alcohol. Would people still like me? Would I have the same friends? Would I still go to bars? Would I still want to go to bars? Would I be able to maintain my sobriety?
I considered my collection of wine glasses. I wouldn’t need them anymore but I didn’t want to get rid of them, or store them away even. They represented fun times, of both the debaucherous and more refined kind, and brought back good memories of trips to Wine Country and Santa Ynez. They represented girls’ nights with my besties. And they looked good in my kitchen cabinet. They belonged there.
I committed to 30 days. Baby steps. I didn’t want to set the bar too high. I could do 30 days, dammit. I had to prove to myself I could do 30 days because maybe then there was hope for me. I owed this to myself. And so it began.
In the first days of my sobriety I attended an AA meeting. I hadn’t yet tried AA so why not start there? It was a new year, a new me, and I was ready to try something new. With a clean slate and another chance to do it right, I downloaded the ‘AA Big Book’ app on my phone, searched for meetings near me, and picked one. That Saturday afternoon, in a long, narrow, windowless room in a San Jose strip mall, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and finally accepted that I had a problem. And, I committed to taking action because I wanted more for myself. While I’m glad I went, I haven’t been back. It just wasn’t for me. So far, I’m doing just fine without AA. And, it turns out I’m not very good at being anonymous.
The hardest part, for me, was breaking the habit. Drinking for every occasion was so ingrained in me. I had to relearn how to do things, but without a drink in hand. Boozy brunches without the booze. Happy hours without the happy. Dinner parties without boatloads of wine. I had to learn how to be social sober. And what to do with my hands. I had to learn how to say ‘no’ to certain events where alcohol took center stage. And be okay with having FOMO.
After a few weeks of attending events where I’d normally be putting them back, and getting used to not, and realizing it wasn’t the end of the world, the habit was broken and being sober got a lot easier.
I made it through Christmas without a drink. And New Year’s. I made it through four months of a separation. And the passing of my best (fluffy) friend of 15+ years, my beloved Tito. And Super Bowl. And since then, countless happy hours and evenings out. I’ve even braved wineries and breweries, my old places of worship.
Turns out, life without alcohol is pretty great. People still like me. I have the same friends. I still go to happy hours, admittedly less now, but that’s not a bad thing. I still use my wine glasses, my bourbon ones too.
But wait, there’s more!
I have more money. I have more energy. I’m stronger and healthier. I sleep like a baby. My pants fit me again (hallelujah!). And I feel good. Really. Good. Every day is hangover-free and every day I can be my best self. And be proud of myself, too.
When I first became a “non-drinker,” I felt a sense of loss. But in going through this, it’s clear as day how much I’ve gained.